Thankfully, the parent of 2015 has access to a whole arsenal of smartphone apps and games that can educate children at the same time as keeping them quiet.
My Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been entertaining children since the end of the 1960s and now it’s available in 21st century digital form. This 3D interactive app offers a variety of different experiences for young children, letting them explore the caterpillar’s world, grow food for the caterpillar to eat, and even peek into his toy box.
BBC CBeebies Playtime
You can usually rely on the Beeb for apps and games with high production values and BBC CBeebies Playtime is no exception.
The app holds a series of rotating games that entertain as well as educate, focusing on some of the shows currently on TV (Andy’s Dinosaur Adventure, Alphablocks, Tree Fu Tom). Based on the reviews left for the app, both children and parents alike love it. [Free on Android and iOS]
Lego City My City
For children who are a little older, the latest game from the Lego stable is worth a look. It’s a series of mini-games covering car chases, firefighting, deep sea exploration and more besides – part city simulation game and part traditional block builder.
Toca Life: City
The Toca Life format moves to the city, giving older kids the chance to shop, explore and entertain themselves in the virtual world much as they might do in the real one.
Toca Boca’s games are always polished and full of depth, and this latest one is no different: there are four locations and 28 customisable characters to play around with, and once you’ve bought the app there’s nothing else to pay. [£2.49 on iOS]
Apps featuring favourite characters from TV and the movies are always sure to go down well with younger people, and Peppa Pig is a prime example.
This officially sanctioned painting app lets your children explore their creative side as well as spend time with Peppa and George: there’s the option to start a new work of art from scratch or to do some colouring in instead, and pictures can easily be saved. [Free on Android and iOS]
Learn Music For Kids
Many kids enjoy bashing away on rudimentary musical instruments, and this app recreates the experience digitally. The app aims to stimulate intellectual and sensory development, and there are five instruments to pick from: piano, xylophone, drums, guitar and tubular bells.
Your children can play around with the instrument of their choice, learn a song or explore some real-life sounds. [Free on Android]
You’d be hard-pressed to find more well-loved characters than the Despicable Me Minions right now, and this endless runner puts the crazy yellow creatures at the centre of the action.
As well as the fast-paced main game there are bonus mini-games and a handful of goodies that are sure to please kids who loved the movies. The in-app purchases aren’t too obtrusive and new content has just been added. [Freemium on Android and iOS]
You may not want to stump up £5.99 and above for access to Netflix for yourself, but what you might not know is that there’s a wealth of kids programmes on there as well — it has its own shows (like Inspector Gadget and Danger Mouse remakes), classic movies (like Aladdin and Monsters, Inc.) and plenty of sing-a-long music content.
Inside Out Thought Bubbles
If the film reviews are to be believed, Inside Out might even hit the heights of Frozen in terms of broad appeal, and as you would expect there’s a tie-in mobile game to keep the children occupied.
Players are challenged to progress through 125 levels of bubble-shooting action, with new characters, backgrounds and power-ups appearing on a regular basis. It’s nicely done, if not particularly original. [Freemium on Android and iOS]
Minecraft Pocket Edition
What is there left to say about Minecraft? It’s one of the gaming sensations of our age, and if your children aren’t already into it then they soon will be.
The blocky open world environment allows kids to let their imaginations run wild, and there are options to introduce survival elements and cooperative play into the mix as well.
Endless Reader boosts your child’s early reading skills while keeping him or her quiet at the same time — it’s the follow-up to Endless Alphabet, and has the same appealing cartoonish interface and attention to detail.
Youngsters can use the app to learn the common ‘sight words’ that form the building blocks of reading, but you only get the first six words for free before the in-app purchases kick in. [Freemium on Android and iOS]
The Jungle Book
Just because the kids of today are swiping across touchscreens rather than leafing through pages doesn’t mean we have to leave the old literary classics behind: The Jungle Book is a beautifully done adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s 19th century masterpiece and all of the best-known characters from the stories are here.
What’s the most reliable way of keeping your kids entertained? If you answered “monsters” then Monster Mingle is worth a look — it’s an open-ended exploration game (with no fixed aim) where your children are free to use their imaginations and create their own journeys through a colourful and cartoon-like world.
Promising to be the app that “makes bedtime fun”, Goodnight Caillou is a sweet and gentle collection of mini-games that get your kids ready for the land of nod.
In total there are 20 different sections to explore, using a range of gameplay mechanics and covering everything from practising maths to learning about hygiene. The graphics and sounds in the app are all top-notch and professionally done too. [Freemium on Android and iOS]
LumiKids Park has been picking up app awards left, right and centre, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you have younger children eager for some entertainment.
There are a variety of mini-games here to educate and delight, and the app adapts to suit the learning level of the young person playing it. You don’t even need an adult to show them the ropes, though there are tips for parents included too. [Free on Android and iOS]